Irons’ Family Deserves Space

I have much respect for the family of the late Andy Irons. They have dealt with the loss of their high-profile husband, father, son and brother with dignity and grace. Their latest public statement concerning his death took courage and shows the strength of a close-knit family.

The day after a Tarrant County (Dallas) assistant district attorney told the media that a Texas judge had granted the family’s request to further delay releasing Irons’ autopsy report, the family immediately responded that it was not true.

A Dallas lawyer made a decision to request a delay on their behalf without their authorization. They said he did so as a way to “provide sufficient time for the 10-page toxicology report to be translated into laymen’s terms and prevent the risk of its being misconstrued or misunderstood.”

His intent was to provide the family a moment to accept the cause of death.

“We would like the media and public to know that we have been anticipating the results for six months and were prepared to greet the release of this information with honesty and forthrightness,” they said in a statement. “The family is still anxiously awaiting the results of the autopsy and toxicology report and will comment further, and with all due honesty, once it is provided to us.”

Irons was found dead in his hotel room in Dallas last November while on a layover heading back to Hawaii. At the time, his widow Lyndie says releasing the autopsy report would generate intense news coverage that could tarnish her husband’s brand. Lyndie and the rest of the family no longer feel that way, saying, “We know that Andy’s life and death were tainted by drugs and are ready to accept the medical examiner’s findings.”

This is clearly a family that is still suffering, but has come to grips with a very delicate and personal issue. To publicly share this admission took a tremendous amount of soul-searching and trust in each other.

Many had criticized the family for the initial delay saying, “the public had the right to know because Andy was a public figure.” Yes, he was a professional athlete who gained international fame. But does that justify the painful comments the family has absorbed?

In the days following his death, blogs went wild with stories of his drug addiction. The demons he was privately battling weren’t private at all. A few who watched the self-destruction were no longer being silent. There were detailed accounts of his struggles, stories that no doubt brought more pain to already grieving family.

But those closest to Andy say it was an issue he was desperately trying to control. He was married and was about to become a father. He had worked extremely hard to rebuild his body and mind, and was committed to achieving greatness again on the same professional tour he had walked away from. Those new dreams never materialized and he left this world much too soon. He never got the chance to see his child or be a dad. As a father, that saddens me the most.

So now the world awaits the autopsy report. The media will report details. Some may be more aggressive with their words than others. But I pray for the sake of his family that’s where this ends.

Andy was not perfect and his family has acknowledged that. The autopsy report will provide answers to some of their questions and perhaps help in their healing process. But closure? That journey will take years. They’ve already taken the first step: Acceptance.

The Irons family is facing this challenge head on and wants to move forward. We must allow them the opportunity do so.

It’s about respect. It’s about being human.